Pop culture has taken over politics

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]— Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
From the Kardashians to Beyoncé, we have an unavoidable fascination with celebrities and what takes place in their lives. Pop culture has become such an integral part of American identity that we base many aspects of our lives, from what we choose to buy to what politician we vote for, on celebrity endorsements. From a political standpoint, there are three distinct aspects of pop culture: the way it affects the political decisions of nonpoliticians during their campaign, the way it affects the laws and measures politicians choose to enact and the way it affects the political decisions of Americans.
Running a campaign today has become a costly and multifaceted affair. According to Time.com, spending for congressional campaigns has increased by 555 percent between 1998 and 2012. That’s much greater than the rise in health care spending or the national GDP. The figures for the 2012 presidential campaign between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are even more staggering. According to The New York Times, $1.97 billion total was spent by these two candidates on their campaigns. The majority was spent on advertising, and a similar trend can be seen in the 2014 midterm elections. Television advertisement spending surpassed $1 billion for this midterm election cycle alone, but what’s interesting is on which channels each political party decided to showcase their advertisements. The divide is apparent in two channels strongly related to pop culture. The Golf Channel featured 93 percent pro-Republican ads, while E! featured 94 percent pro-Democrat ads.
This divide highlights the importance pop culture plays in political agendas. The Golf Channel appeals to older, more conservative individuals, while the E! channel attracts a younger, more liberal crowd. Many Americans seek a president who is similar to them because this similarity comes with a sense of being understood by the political figures. To stay up with younger voters, politicians are becoming increasingly aware of and acquainted with mainstream songs, shows, movies and idols. This can be seen in Barack Obama’s appearance on the “Late Show with David Letterman,” which made him the first sitting president to appear on late night television. Another revolutionary way in which pop culture is now being utilized by politicians can be seen in the rise in their use of Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms.
Pop culture’s influence on American politics can come from many sectors. There are countless Hollywood movies depicting presidents of the United States. Movies such as “White House Down” and “Independence Day” portray fictional American presidents who are brave, intelligent, witty and resilient. As a result, we make subconscious associations between this fictional image of what a president should be and the characteristics of actual real-life candidates. Celebrity opinions can also influence who we favor in elections. The rise of the Internet and social media has become a platform that can either make or break a candidate. Memes, quotes and videos pertaining to candidates can be seen instantly by millions of people. Depending on the message of the content and the number of people who support it via “likes” or comments, public opinion of a political candidate’s ideas and policies can be dramatically swayed.
The use of media as a mode of voicing political views has long been an effective way for citizens to influence policy. One of the most notable cases of this was during the Vietnam War, when rock music was used to spread a notion of peace and to bring to light the horrors occurring in Southeast Asia. Jimi Hendrix, for example, did this in his 1969 song “Machine Gun.” This strong opposition fueled by pop culture helped change public opinion and brought about the eventual end of the war.
Politics and pop culture are becoming increasingly intertwined. As social media platforms continue to grow and the Internet becomes available to an increasing percentage of the world’s population, pop culture will become a focus in every household. As seen during Obama’s 2012 campaign, using pop culture effectively can help a political candidate significantly. It can also help the masses by providing a platform on which to voice their opinions and concerns. The question lies not in whether these two entities are intertwined, but in how we as everyday citizens can use them to get our voices heard.
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